Vice President Joe Biden spoke about his personal position as a gun owner himself to make the distinction between “gun safety” and gun control during Google Hangout chat on Thursday, as the Obama administration continues a full court press on the public to embrace tighter gun legislation.
Biden joined author and technology expert Guy Kawasaki, video blogger Philip DeFranco, mother and NRA member Theresa Tillett, and blogger and therapist Kimberly Blaine in the White House’s continuing series of “Fireside Hangouts”—a modern-day version of FDR’s radio addresses known as “fireside chats.”
The Hangout, which was moderated by PBS NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan, addressed the White House’s plans to reduce gun violence, and allowed participants to ask the vice president about his gun safety proposals, mental health resources in schools, and the possibility of reauthorizing the assault weapons ban.
During the chat, the vice president called the right to own a weapon for self-protection or recreation an “individual right—not a corporate right, not related to a militia,” and said he did not feel there was a societal justification for owning an automatic firearm.
To add to that point, in response to a question regarding limiting the capacity of gun magazines, Biden responded that there was also little justification for high-capacity magazines. “I’m not making the argument it will end crime,” he said. “But there is no sporting need that I am aware of to have a magazine that holds 50 rounds.”
The conversation also included a discussion about the availability of mental health resources in schools to focus on students who may be at-risk for violent behavior. ”The first and most important thing is to engage and come up with ways to prevent children who are at risk from falling into a circumstance—whatever mental, emotional problems they have—before they metastasize into problems,” he said.
Biden highlighted Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education), which would provide schools with training to help staff members spot signs of mental illness or instability early. Biden noted it would cost about $40 million to fund the program, but that it would add a valuable resource to schools to have teachers trained in spotting warning signs, and being able to give parents and guardians names for professionals they could seek further help from.
“The whole idea is ‘preventative,’” he said, adding that it would be a “terrible mistake” to call for armed guards in schools as the best measure to keep students safe—something the NRA suggested as a solution following the Newtown massacre.
Biden concluded the Hangout by encouraging the participants and others watching to make their voices heard. “This town listens when people rise up and speak,” he said.